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FIFA World Cup Travel Memories

As an American, FIFA World Cup was never a much talked about event. The one year with hype in American media was 1994 World Cup hosted by the USA. Yet, as I watch Mexico and Cameroon play in the second match of the 2014 World Cup in Natal, Brazil, I realize that I have several significant memories of World Cup from my travels as a teenager living in Germany in 1974 and then for each World Cup since 1994.

FIFA World Cup has created many memories in my life as my travels have intersected with the international football tournament over the past 44 years. This is a personal reflection of past travels and past World Cups. I have never been to a World Cup match. I prefer sports on TV. Thinking back over my life, FIFA World Cup has intersected with my global travels even more than the Olympics.

World Cup 1970 – Mexico

I really have no memories of World Cup 1970. I was ten years old and an American kid living on a small American military airfield near Stuttgart, Germany. I lived in Germany. I played soccer on a U.S. military base childrens’ league team. I wore real Adidas soccer shoes. The U.S. dollar had great value against the Deutsche mark in 1970 and my working class parents could afford to buy some nice things at that time in Germany with the favorable currency exchange. I know I must have watched at least parts of some World Cup 1970 matches. I just don’t remember anything about World Cup 1970.

World Cup 1974 – Germany

July 7 Final in Munich: Germany 2 – Netherlands 1.

At the age of 14, the primary reason I remember this World Cup is I lived near Mainz, Germany and our family had been staying at the U.S. Armed Forces Recreation Center in Berchtesgaden, Germany.

In 1974 the location held the General Walker Hotel, a former Nazi-era hotel. General Walker Hotel was demolished in 2000 and the property is now the InterContinental Berchtesgaden Hotel. As a 14-year old American soon-to-be high school student, I tramped those grounds on many trips during three years living in Germany in the 1970s. Most of my time in Berchtesgaden was sleeping in a campground tent when staying at the former U.S. military resort. I have good memories of the General Walker Hotel from many fun activities with friends like mini-golf, fussball, lake swimming, hiking and exploring the woods and WWII ruins. In July 1974, my 8th grade British-German classmate Steve came on summer vacation to Berchtesgaden with my family.

The World Cup 1974 connection is my dad driving us all around Munich on a Sunday afternoon seeking an open gas station during the World Cup Finals game. We spent quite a bit of time driving the streets of Munich and Dad kept commenting how it looked like a ghost city as we drove empty streets with nobody else driving and nobody outside walking on sidewalks. Seriously, there was nobody outside for blocks and blocks. Eventually, my dad found gas and we headed back to Mainz. That 1974 memory was unique in my experience since I could never imagine a place like Los Angeles or San Francisco ever having empty streets. My teenage memory hammered home the significance of FIFA World Cup in 1974.

FIFA World Cup 1994 USA

Yeah, I have a gap of 20 years with no World Cup memories.

World Cup 1994 might have slipped by unnoticed too, except for the fact that my wife, Kelley and I moved to Maine with elementary school teaching credentials and no jobs. We were living one of the most stressful, deeply bonding and ultimately deeply relaxing experiences we ever had surviving that summer as homeless vagabonds. We lived in a tent in the upscale Megunticook Campground by the sea in Rockport, Maine. I think we paid around $100 per week and our camping spot for several weeks was about 50 feet from the rocky coast of Penobscot Bay. At night we dozed off to foghorns and buoy bells sounding from different island spots on the bay. The peaceful lull of waves would only be interrupted by the occasional night fight battles with raccoons who repeatedly tried to steal our food stores.

Life slipped into simple subsistence mode with food preparation, swimming and job applications being the the main activities of long summer days.

This area of ‘Vacationland’ has many resorts like Samoset Resort and Camden B&Bs.

Samoset Resort

Samoset Resort, Rockland, Maine

World Cup 1994 connection to Maine is Sea Dog Brewing Company in Camden, Maine. Kelley and I went off-the-grid most of that summer with no electricity at our oceanfront campsite. Our World Cup dates at Sea Dog Brewing Company for USA games were special since the matches were our only splurge we allowed that summer. We would order a couple of pitchers of beer and watch the USA team games in World Cup 1994 matches on televisions at the brewery.

The Sea Dog Brewing Company that opened in 1993 in Camden, Maine has five locations in Maine and Florida today. The Sea Dog brewpub in Camden we so fondly remember for World Cup 1994 closed in 1995.

FIFA World Cup 1998 – France

June 26, 1998 England 2 –Colombia 0

Schull, Ireland Stanley House B&B staying in a room where Maeve Binchy spent some holidays. There was no room television. Kelley and I had permission to watch World Cup in the B&B living room one night for the England Group G third and deciding first round game against Colombia. We kicked back in reclining chairs with our Smithwick’s Ale and after a little problem working the remote to find the TV station, we settled in and received our introduction to a young footballer called David Beckham who scored during the game ‘bending it like Beckham’. Beckham was blamed by many for the next game’s Round of 16 loss to Argentina when he earned a red card for kicking a player that ousted him from the game.

While Beckham is pronbably the most famous footballer in the USA today, a different and younger player, Michael Owen was England’s true star of World Cup 1998. He became the youngest player for England to score a World Cup goal at 18 years of age in the opening match and provided most of England’s team excitement. Owen was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1998.

FIFA World Cup 2002 – South Korea

Sunday, June 16, 2002 Victoria, British Columbia

I was deep into mileage run activity for a Star Alliance 5th anniversary promotion to earn 55,555 miles by flying 5 different Star Alliance Airlines by July 7. The Star Alliance 2002 promotion provided 55 days to fly five Star Alliance airlines. Here is the Star Alliance 55,555 promotion FlyerTalk thread.

I agree with Davistev that 500 K is a pretty decent deal. I am 1K with UA, but a UA ticket can only get me to a few locations in Europe. I am looking forward to having the flexibility of adding other flights on award tickets to take me to places farther along than my paid mileage tickets.

As always with a mileage run there is a risk factor that all the conditions won’t be met. I lost 100,000 miles on the 1999 One World promo because one of my tickets was in the wrong booking class, but I still fared quite well.

I spent an extra $500 and burned 30,000 AA miles for the LatinPass million mile bonus because a counter agent in Guatemala took my entire boarding pass and I didn’t have any flight receipt causing me to take a third trip to Latin America just to pick up a boarding pass. Total trip cost was $4,500. I have redeemed well over $10,000 in Hilton hotel rooms so far with about another 100 nights of hotel rooms left to use.
I am doing this 55,555 trip in two trips. I just got back from Leg 1 today. My wife and I spent $1,200 for a weekend in Canada, including airfare, hotels, and all and 4 AC segments and 5 UA segments. (Love that Gate 38 Maple Lounge at YVR, but what is up with those rude YVR immigration agents)

We received VDB (Voluntary Denied Boarding) awards twice, (Ms. Satori threatened to kill me if I took the third VDB award last night), and recouped $1,200 in UA vouchers and 2 domestic ticket vouchers ((accrue miles)) + hotels and meal vouchers. We got home 3 hours after our originally planned return time.

In two weeks we start on our annual European summer trip. We altered five days to get three *alliance carriers. We will have a night in Ireland and two nights in Budapest. Assuming all goes as planned, we will accumulate 500,000 miles, I will get a free 50 K status miles on the VDB awards, and within the next two years I will turn the 55,555 miles in 4 programs into 8 business or first class transatlantic tickets through hotel, credit card, and other mileage transfers.

I consider this a great investment of $2,000 for airfare. Since Ms. Satori refused to take the LatinPass runs,  I consider this the best run we’ve seen in the past two years.

My FlyerTalk post June 17, 2002

This post was written in response to OzStamps, sort of The Points Guy in the points and miles world at the time. Oz Stamps thought the Star Alliance 5th Anniversary promotion was a waste of money for 55,555 miles. The travel hack I used was flying five 4-segment tickets on five different Star Alliance airlines and sending one boarding pass from each ticket to four different Star Alliance carriers. My wife and I each earned over 230,000 miles with Air Canada, Mexicana, ANA and Lufthansa.

World Cup 2002 connection was waking up in the early morning hours in Victoria, British Columbia for the Spain-Ireland game. I was so excited that Itreland was still in competition at the half-time break. While Kelley slept in the hotel bed, I hit the streets of Victoria to find a pub at 6am broadcasting the game. Dozens of Irish pubs in Victoria and I could not find one pub open for the Ireland game. Come on!

I went back to our hotel room and watched Ireland lose in a penalty shoot out to Spain. An open Irish pub in Victoria, Canada at 6am on a Sunday morning for World Cup football might have made all the difference in that game outcome.

World Cup 2006 – Germany


I had a digital camera when I went to Singapore in June 2006 staying in several Starwood Hotels.

Singapore McDonald's World Cup

Singapore McDonalds on Orchard Road open 24 hours and broadcasting 2006 World Cup Matches live.

Singapore 2006 World Cup

Singapore McDonald’s Live Broadcasts of 2006 FIFA World Cup matches June 11, 2006

  • 21:00 Serbia – Holland (Netherlands)
  • 23:55 Mexico – Iran
  • 03:00 Angola – Portugal

Singapore is probably the world’s leading consumerist economy. I think of Singapore as a testing ground for U.S. marketing campaigns. FIFA World Cup 2006 branding in Singapore was an incredible marketing lesson for me.

Since flying to Asia screws up my sleep pattern badly, the opportunity to walk around the streets in the early am hours of night and find families out together watching World Cup matches in street cafes with big screens was a welcome distraction. Singapore made World Cup an incredible kick-off event for me. I had a reason to go outside and walk the streets in the middle of the night when I could not sleep during my week there.

Singapore Changi Airport FIFA World Cup 2006 viewing area with several TV screens and seats to watch games.

Amsterdam, Netherlands 2006

Kelley and I spent about six months living in the Netherlands, one to three weeks at a time between 1999 and 2006. We lived primarily in the Amsterdam Hilton spending the 1,000,000 LatinPass miles I earned in 2000 and transferred to Hilton HHonors points at the rate of 30,000 miles = 60,000 HHonors points every month.

I partied with Kelley on the Leidseplein in central Amsterdam with thousands of people watching the World Cup 2006 Germany-Italy semifinal on July 4, 2006. Germany lost the Dortmund Stadium game in extra time. I wonder how much wilder that night would have been if Germany had won?

In Ireland 1998, I noticed the Irish supported England when there was no Ireland team in World Cup. The Dutch seemed to support Germany for the World Cup 2006 semi-final when there was no Dutch competition.

Amsterdam Hilton

View from canal view junior suite Amsterdam Hilton in 2006.

FIFA World Cup has little meaning for most Americans. International travel has given significant meaning for World Cup in my American life.

Netherlands just beat Spain 5-1 in their opening World Cup 2014 match.

I’m loving it – World Cup 2014


Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.

Loyalty Traveler shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. Check out current hotel loyalty program offers across all the major chains in Loyalty Traveler’s monthly hotel promotions guide.

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